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My Must-Have iOS Apps & Web Services, 2016 Edition

Feature of the Year

Spotify Discover Weekly

No software feature has brought as much joy into my life as Discover Weekly did this year. With its weekly assortment of songs I never heard before, Discover Weekly rekindled my love for mixtapes and the thrill of falling in love with a new band. I've learned to appreciate dozens of new artists thanks to Discover Weekly. I look forward to it every Monday.

Runners-Up

Workflow Web API Actions

With the ability to interact with any web API, Workflow has extended the power of its automation features beyond iOS apps. Workflow's 1.5.3 release has been an important milestone for the app and the entire iOS automation landscape.

Ulysses Automation

Thanks to one of the richest implementations of x-callback-URL, Ulysses' automation features have redefined how deeply an iOS text editor can be integrated with other apps. Over the past several months, I've integrated Ulysses with Todoist, Trello, and Workflow. Ulysses' Markdown automation has raised the bar for other text editors on iOS.


1.0 Release of the Year

Scrivener

I wasn't particularly excited about Scrivener when I first heard it was coming to iOS. After taking the app for a spin, though, I realized that its combination of desktop-class research tools and native iOS features were exactly what I needed for my iOS 10 review. Scrivener is the best 1.0 version I tried this year, and I trusted the app with my most important project for three months.

Runner-Up

PlayMira

I had my jaw-dropping moment on the iPad Pro this year when I was on vacation and successfully connected to my PlayStation 4 at home, woke it up from sleep, and started playing No Man's Sky 400 miles away. PlayMira feels like sorcery. If you have a PS4, a fast Internet connection, and an MFi controller, you should spend some time setting up PlayMira over the holidays.


Web Service of the Year

Todoist

Todoist has fundamentally altered my idea of what a task manager should be. By embracing the web and integrations with other apps and services I use, Todoist is more than my todo app – it's an interconnected and automated task management system that works everywhere.

Todoist's extensible approach helped me accomplish more, collaborate more efficiently with my team, and overcome my productivity anxiety. Todoist perfectly encapsulates the advantages of flexible web services over app sandboxes.

Runner-Up

Zapier

Zapier's hundreds of integrations and power-user functionalities made me realize that there's a world of possibilities for web automation and connecting multiple services together. The most important aspects of our workflow at MacStories have been sped up by Zapier this year.


App of the Year

Airmail

The unique blend of modern email features, integrations with iOS apps and web services, and power-user options makes Airmail the most powerful email client for iOS, which deserves to be my App of the Year.

Airmail allowed me to reimagine the way I process and act on email messages. Despite some minor bugs, it's a deeply customizable email client that adapts to my needs and works with the apps I already use to get work done. Airmail is a power-user email app with no equal.

I have tried several email clients over the past year, but I always go back to Airmail for a simple reason: it's my favorite way to process email and get back to work.

Runners-Up

Ulysses

The Soulmen managed to distill the power and elegance of Ulysses for Mac into an uncompromising iOS text editor that offers a fantastic writing and editing environment. Behind its minimalistic appearance, Ulysses hides a set of advanced Markdown tools that make it my go-to text editor for MacStories articles and Club MacStories content. It's rare to find a balanced combination of simplicity and power-user features, but Ulysses hits all the right notes while simultaneously abstracting much of the cruft of traditional Markdown text editors.

Timepage

Through a spectacular mix of attractive UI design and engaging user interactions, Timepage succeeds where other apps fall short – making the calendar fun to use and informative at the same time. Timepage exudes care and a willingness to subvert the classic metaphors of calendar client design for iOS, providing a standout calendar experience unlike anything else.


2016

Looking back at how I used my iPhone and iPad in 2016, I realize now that the tenets of my iOS workflow haven't significantly changed. Some apps may be different – the App of the Year and Runners-Up are all new this year – but the fundamentals of how I work on iOS are consistent with 2015. The past year was mostly about optimization: I tried to find better apps for tasks I was already handling on iOS.

I wouldn't say that iOS is a mature platform for productivity yet – there's still a long list of aspects to improve, especially on the iPad. But I also feel like iOS 10 didn't open groundbreaking possibilities for the apps I use every day – it was, as I wrote in September, a lifestyle update focused on consumers and our relationship with the iPhone. From this standpoint, it doesn't surprise me that my favorite apps don't appear drastically different from last year – it's almost as if both users and developers are waiting for what's coming next to iOS productivity and iPad multitasking.

Deeper automation with Workflow and the shift to web services are two trends I expect to continue in 2017. I see automation as an essential trait of how I like to work on iOS, but it'll be interesting to measure the impact of iPad updates on my usage of Workflow and app automations. I suspect that web services and API integrations will keep gaining an important role for assistants by Google and Amazon, but I'm also waiting for Apple's second wave of SiriKit extensions and a stronger integration with the iOS apps I use.

I think it's going to be a fascinating 2017 for iOS productivity, and I'm excited for what's next in iPad software.

As always, let's check back in a year.

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